I had the great privilege of attending the Saint Anselm College archaeological dig in Italy this summer. I got to spend six weeks in the Italian countryside learning about archaeology from many of the most experienced scholars in the field. To actually unearth ancient coins, or pottery fragments, or even tombs, instead of just reading about such discoveries from the safety and comfort of a classroom, was exhilarating.
I spent my six weeks cycling between Coriglia, an Italian hillside that likely was the site of a spring and a pagan shrine, the Cavita, which is a chthonic Etruscan pyramid, Allerona, which was a series of Roman structures converted into Catholic churches, and my favorite site of all, Castel Giorgio. Castel Giorgio was in a ravine that was bandit country in Roman times, and in the days of the Etruscans was a burial ground. The sides of the ravine were full of Etruscan cave tombs, many of which had been looted over the centuries. I spent most of my last two weeks at Castle Giorgio digging into one such cave tomb, and we had quite a few interesting finds.
The weekends we had to ourselves, and my friends and I were able to visit some of the greatest cities in the world, such as Rome or Florence, as well as smaller, less well-known attractions, such as Bagnoregio, the Dying City, or Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis. Orvieto itself, where we all stayed, was magnificent.
All in all, I had a fantastic time on the dig! I certainly learned a lot, and particularly helpful to me personally was learning more about Roman and Etruscan religious attitudes, specifically with regards to their notions of their relationships with their pagan deities, and their concepts of proper worship. I cannot recommend it highly enough, both for those who are interested in the Classical world, and for anyone else just interested in trying something new, meeting great people, and spending six sublime weeks in Italy.